Connecting to others through technology is easier than ever. While being able to reach out to people easily has its advantages, the barrage of notifications and emails that we encounter every day can take a toll on our health. Being hyper-connected can cause us to become disconnected from ourselves. Sometimes we need to unplug.
Being so connected through technology has caused us to disconnect from real life
We’ve all had that student or classmate who can’t make it through a one-hour class without his or her phone ringing. Early departures and interrupted savasana (Corpse Pose) are symptoms of the difficulty of being present in this fast-paced world. Students and teachers who can’t have an hour free from disruptions need uninterrupted practice the most.
They represent a generation so plagued by fear of missing out (FOMO) and so frequently disrupted mid-thought that it’s rewiring their brains. A study by the University of California at Irvine found that the average worker changes tasks once every three minutes and five seconds.
Many interruptions come from email and social media, but we often interrupt ourselves. Our brains adapt to this distracted state, and it makes it harder to think deeply.
Yoga can be an excellent tool for teaching people to reconnect with their minds and bodies. Classes and retreats remind us how it feels to be in the present moment. Meditation invites us to explore bare attention. The practice reminds us how to focus and resist the constant mental chatter and static that causes stress and inhibits creativity.
How to minimize distractions and unplug
Unplugging is often easier said than done. Emails and texts allow us to work from anywhere at any time. We can peer into others’ lives whenever we want on social media. Many people expect that because they can reach you so readily, you should respond right away.
As teachers, it’s important to set healthy boundaries for ourselves, and it’s valuable to model how we balance being tech savvy and being able to be unplugged and present. It’s not always practical for us to shut our phones off entirely. Here are a few ways to minimize your distractions:
1. There’s an app for that
Carrying around tiny computers in our pockets makes it hard to escape from work. With this challenge came a series of apps geared toward breaking smartphone addiction and silencing notifications that aren’t important. Leechblock, Moment, and Forest are a few examples of apps that can reduce the number of times your phone takes you out of the moment.
Some apps allow you to whitelist incoming communications that are important to you. For example, you may want to be able to get emergency phone calls from your child’s school or a sick relative, but you could do without Facebook notifications until later. Simply knowing that you can access the information you need can alleviate stress and make it easier for you to focus on the current moment.
2. Check the settings on your phone and computer
In addition to downloading an app to help you unplug, you might also take a look at the settings on your electronic devices and apps. Turn push notifications off so that you aren’t enticed to click away from your work or stop your practice to check your phone. I was amazed at how much more relaxed I feel after silencing all notifications coming from my social media.
3. Set office hours for yourself and stick to them
As yoga teachers and students, we wear many hats. Learning to manage your time will improve your practice and allow you to be more present with students and your practice. Regardless of whether you work in an office environment, it’s critical to assign yourself working hours. Just because people can reach you 24/7 doesn’t mean that they should. Designate times for checking email and social media so that they don’t take over your life.
France recently passed a law that gives workers the right to disconnect. Law-makers are starting to recognize that being tethered to screens 24/7 isn't good for us.
4. Talk about boundaries
Many of us want to be open and available at all times, but it's okay to have boundaries. We need time to restore, connect with nature, and practice without having to answer the phone or respond to messages.Be clear with others about your workflow. This keeps people from expecting you to respond right away, and it shows them that leading a balanced lifestyle is important to you.
For example, if you’re heading out for a five-day retreat, let people know that you will not be responding to emails during that time. If you teach back to back classes on Wednesdays, and you'll only be able to take calls between 4:00 and 6:00 PM on that day, make sure that people who frequently contact you know this. Your friends, colleagues, and clients are more likely to respect your boundaries if they know what they are.
5. Ask yourself, “Why?”
Yoga teachers aren’t infallible beings. We too can get lost in the quagmires of social media. One minute, you’re posting about your class offerings this week, and an hour later, you might find scrolling mindlessly through your feed. Think about your purpose, and disrupt behaviors that don’t support that purpose. Cultivating presence is an ongoing journey.
6. Commit to a social media detox
When you notice that social media is having a negative effect on your practice and well-being, a detox may be in order. Let others know that you’re going off the grid for a set period. Find an accountability buddy, or name the things that you plan to do in lieu of being plugged in all the time. Imagine how much it might change your life to devote time normally spent on social media to practicing a walking meditation on a scenic trail or doing breathwork exercises.
7. Go on a retreat
When you’re learning how to unplug, going on a yoga retreat can put you at a distinct advantage. Retreats are a chance to take a few days away from the everyday hustle and bustle. The structure of retreat days can kickstart a habit of putting away your cell phone, stepping away from your computer, and reconnecting with a mindful state. Your mind and body will thank you.
Schedule your 2018 retreat now, there are many opportunities this year for you to travel around the globe with Mindful Balance Retreats. Are you a teacher? Lead your own with the professional guidance of our team, contact us today to get started. Want to join a retreat? Take a look at the upcoming retreats page and sit with the idea of a relaxing on the warm, white sand beaches of Tulum, or take a spiritual journey to Bali, the island of gods or celebrate the new year in India, the motherland of Yoga!
Unplug to plug in
Through dedicated practice, we learn what it feels like to be unplugged from technology and completely connected to our minds, bodies, and the world around us. No matter where you are in your practice, it never hurts to evaluate how you are using technology to your advantage and what boundaries you need to set to protect your time and concentration.